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Western Digital said Wednesday it would enter the 1-inch disk drive market later this year, crowding an already congested market.

Western Digital said that the drive will ship in the second calendar quarter of 2005. The 1-inch hard drive will spin at 3,600 RPM and will be available in capacities up to 6 gigabytes, within a CompactFlash Type II form factor.

Although IBM’s original 1-inch MicroDrive was introduced in 1998, hard disk companies have begun jumping on board the 1-inch bandwagon in recent months. IBM, Seagate, Toshiba and now Western Digital all either have shipped or plan to ship 1-inch drives into the market. Analyst group Gartner Inc. estimated that as many as 8 million 1-inch drives shipped in 2004, up from 903,000 units in 2003.

All four suppliers are eying the camera market, especially the possibility that magnetic rotating storage will replace in handheld digital video cameras in future iterations. In a recent interview, Brian Dexheimer, Seagate’s executive vice president of sales and marketing, said that magnetic storage has a chance to replace tape once the total capacity hits the 10- to 20-Gbyte mark.

“I think it’s good,” Dexheimer said, when asked what chance magnetic storage has in handheld video cameras. “Magnetic storage offers some advantages over current technology, which is tape. It’s significantly faster than it; the question is ultimately how big does it have to be” to attract customers, he said.